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J&K logjam: BJP desperate to save alliance but won't give in to PDP's "blackmail"

Panini Anand | Updated on: 14 February 2017, 5:33 IST

The stalemate

  • PDP & BJP are expected to meet J&K Governor on Tuesday to end the deadlock over govt formation
  • BJP is desperate to save the alliance

The reasons

  • After the defeats in Bihar & Delhi, BJP can\'t afford to lose an existing govt
  • It also doesn\'t want to be embarrassed with the Budget Session coming up

More in the story

  • How far is the BJP willing to bend?
  • Is Mehbooba even willing to negotiate?
  • What other options does the BJP have?

Representatives from the BJP and its ally PDP are supposed to meet the Jammu and Kashmir Governor on Tuesday in an effort to break the political deadlock in the state.

While Mehbooba Mufti is faced with the reality that her party's support has eroded because of its alliance with the BJP, the challenges for the saffron party are entirely different. The BJP is desperate to remain in government in Jammu and Kashmir. The party suffered humiliating defeats in 2 states last year and it cannot afford to have a failed government, especially with 5 states going to polls in barely 2 months time.

Also read - Mehbooba plays hardball. Why it suits her to break with BJP

Furthermore, it would push the Narendra Modi government on the back foot in the upcoming Budget Session of Parliament.

BJP leaders believe that the present political crisis is nothing but posturing by Mehbooba to gain greater control of the government.

"These are just bargaining tactics. Our support still continues. There is no justification for such a logjam," says a senior BJP leader.

The developments

The present political crisis began after J&K CM Mufti Mohammad Sayeed passed away on 7 January. His daughter Mehbooba was expected to succeed him as the chief minister. Even though BJP agreed to support her as CM, she refused to take over until the 7-day period of mourning was over.

Now more than 3 weeks have passed, but she is in no hurry to take over as CM

Governor NN Vohra has invited both the parties to discuss the possibility of forming a government.

The BJP's strategy would be to put the ball in Mehbooba's court. It representatives would repeat the stand the party has held ever since the standoff began: "we continue to support the government, ask her to take over as CM".

BJP leaders feel Mehbooba won't snap ties, she is just trying to secure more control over the govt

On the other side, Mehbooba might ask the Governor for more time to think and decide. On Sunday, she held a meeting with PDP leaders and finally broke her silence. She said that if the government is to be formed, the Centre has to address the core political and economic issues faced by the state.

Besides her obvious concern that the alliance has made the PDP unpopular, Mehbooba has apparently also accused the BJP of trying to sabotage her party.

Also read - Mehbooba Mufti's dilemma: to be with BJP or to remain relevant in Kashmir

What's the BJP's position?

BJP has enough reasons to try and save the coalition in the state. Apparently, the party realises that in case fresh elections are held in J&K, it won't be able to repeat its 2014 performance of 25 seats. If the party's tally falls below 20 and the Congress gains at its expense, the latter would be in a good position to emerge as kingmaker in the state.

But how far is it willing to go to stay in power in J&K?

Many in the BJP feel that though the party will be flexible, the PDP can't resort to "blackmail". "She (Mehbooba) may feel that there is a sympathy wave following her father's death. But they have just 3 MLAs more than us. They cannot impose unreasonable conditions," says a BJP leader.

Another leader elaborates, "We are in the government with a common minimum program. We are not gaining anything ideologically, be it on the Kashimiri Pandits issue, Article 370 or anything else. Why should we suffer? We can't bend beyond a point".

"If she makes the demands like there should be no deputy CM from BJP, why should we accept it? Even demands have to be reasonable," he adds.

If PDP is unreasonable, BJP is open to exploring other options like the National Conference

A section in the party also believes that there is no harm in exploring other options in the state. "We were with the Abdullahs earlier. If nothing works out, there is no harm in trying other options,"says a BJP leader, commenting on the possibility of an alliance with the National Conference.

In the end, BJP feels that Mehbooba's posturing is aimed at securing more control over the government and a special package from the Centre, both of which are key to the survival of her party.

The saffron party is counting on the belief that even Mehbooba doesn't want to break the alliance.

More in Catch - Meet Mehbooba Mufti, the likely new Chief Minister of J&K. Cold sweat, BJP?

Post Mufti, PDP-BJP coalition is a sinking ship. Can Mehbooba rescue it?

First published: 2 February 2016, 2:05 IST
Panini Anand @paninianand

Senior Assistant Editor at Catch, Panini is a poet, singer, cook, painter, commentator, traveller and photographer who has worked as reporter, producer and editor for organizations including BBC, Outlook and Rajya Sabha TV. An IIMC-New Delhi alumni who comes from Rae Bareli of UP, Panini is fond of the Ghats of Varanasi, Hindustani classical music, Awadhi biryani, Bob Marley and Pink Floyd, political talks and heritage walks. He has closely observed the mainstream national political parties, the Hindi belt politics along with many mass movements and campaigns in last two decades. He has experimented with many mass mediums: theatre, street plays and slum-based tabloids, wallpapers to online, TV, radio, photography and print.